Psychology is Fun! Encouraging Fellow Nutcases to Seek Help

17 Mar 2009

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Who has seen the wind?
Neither I nor you.
But when the leaves hang trembling,
The wind is passing through.
Who has seen the wind?
Neither you nor I.
But when the trees bow down their heads,
The wind is passing by.
~ Christina Rossetti

A while ago (when I started this draft), I experienced two hesitations about mentioning here any experiences I've had as an official mental health patient. So, naturally, I'm making a special effort tonight to specifically call attention to this. Yes, I have some "issues." But, hey, what's the big deal, really? Why is it that certain people -- for example, celebrities like Woody Allen or Howard Stern -- can make remarks about their therapists and not seem to call any disgrace whatsoever upon themselves, yet, if the average Joe mentions therapy, people clear away from him as though they might catch a disease?

If anything is truly crazy in this world, THAT is, right? I mean, if you broke your arm, and you consulted an orthopedic surgeon, that would be considered prudent. If you chipped a tooth and consulted a dentist, that might be a good idea. So, why is it that, when we face mental issues -- which, let's face it, are certainly more commonplace than broken bones and chipped teeth -- suddenly there's a stigma attached to it? Is it because we cannot see depression or anxiety or phobias? Oh, but surely we can, as easily as we can see the wind, through simple inference.

And, let's face it: I know a lot of you out there and, as nutty as I am, y'all have some serious issues, okay? I mean, let's be honest here. A few of you desperately need a Thorazine drip. (LOL ... jussssst kidding, 'k? Easy there, don't get yourself all worked up. I was just joking around ... That's right ... sit back down, inhale deeply, exhale slowly. It's all going to be okay. I didn't mean YOU. I meant that OTHER creepy blog reader of mine.)

Maybe this notion of "seeing depression" ties in a bit with what I was saying a few posts back about living more intuitively -- about my starting to understand my own emotions and also starting to develop an ability to connect with other people more deeply than I ever have before, to sense their moods and, through that, glimpse a bit of their life's joys and problems. My wife is a true master of this, btw. To me, it's a totally new, unexplored thing.

I'm not suggesting that I can look at someone and say what, specifically, troubles that person. But, I can at least know that something's wrong. I mean, we can all do this much, right? (I'm focusing here on the pain, btw, instead of the happiness and joy, because it's those with pain that need help.) Much of this "ability," I think, comes from the related fact that I seem to care more now than I used to. Some of that stems from my exploration into the human (and, specifically, my own) ego. And I've also read many accounts of this sense lying dormant within people until the time of a traumatic event, perhaps similar to what happened to me six months ago. Whatever happened, for whatever reason, maybe I touched on it above: I just care more.

And I sense that many of you are nutcases. So, look, let me clear up this whole therapy thing for anyone who hasn't experienced it, but thinks maybe consulting a pro might be worthwhile. Basically, here's what happens:

1. You go to the therapist's office and sit in a waiting room. All of the magazines are boring, and many months outdated -- and, after a few visits, you've read them all anyway. So, you just sit there dreading the coming session. They have quiet music playing in the waiting room, or maybe one of those "white noise" machines, just loud enough to ensure that you can't accidentally overhear anyone else's session.

2. When it's your turn, you go inside and they begin with small talk. How's life? How're the kids? etc. Yes, there is a couch, but it's not like in the movies. It seems like, if you want to lie down, you can. I prefer to just sit normally. There are mints and chocolates and tissues there, and a few other things put there, I think, in case you'd like to fidget with them. I'm a bit of a fidgeter, I think. I don't do it consciously, but I'm fairly certain I've rearranged all of the above items on occasion. The woman I see also usually has a candle burning, which actually is quite calming.

3. Then they want to know how you're doing. So, you tell them anything newsworthy as it relates to the crap you're dealing with. Sometimes you have relevant things to say; other times you don't. Like last time ... She said, "So, where are you at now?" I answered, "Well, I'll tell you where I'm at now. It's a good place, but it took me some time to get there, so I'll go ahead and tell you the whole story." And then I rambled on for 15 minutes through various tangents and so forth, arriving back at a point at which I repeated my initial statement about being in a "good place."

Please note that, if you're in therapy, you won't always be in a good place. Sometimes you'll be angry or sad or confused or in any number of other emotional states. This "being in a good place" was a bit of a new one for me. In the beginning, there were many times when I'd fear the appointment. Looking back, I think it was because things were boiling in my head and I knew they'd come out during my session. And they always did. And I usually felt much worse for going and quite often felt that this whole therapy thing was actually doing me more harm than good. I'm told this is normal, but who knows?

However, there were just as many times when she said something like, "Well, Jim, your thinking on this issue is absolutely fucking batty" (though employing the somewhat more distinguished lexicon of a Ph.D.). Then, she'd go grab a handout of some kind or drop some psychologist's name for me to Google later, thus daylighting my cognitive disorder du jour. Those times are, in my opinion, productive. At least they offer you a temporary distraction as you think to yourself, "Do I really do that? Do I really think the way she's suggesting that I think? If so, is that necessarily bad?"

Other times they catch you off guard. You go in thinking you're going to have an "easy session" and damn if something doesn't get touched off that you didn't see coming. So, while I probably shouldn't warn you about the sucker punch -- it being a time-honored standard, I'm sure, within the therapist's toolbox -- it's a reality that they do employ these methods from time to time. I suspect they only do it if they feel you can handle it. So, maybe it's a good sign?

4. They usually don't attach the electrodes until around 40 minutes into the session.

5. Okay, number 4 is a lie. I was just seeing if anyone is actually reading this far. Basically, you downshift into smalltalk again after about 50 minutes, and then you leave. Sometimes you're upset, other times you're relieved, other times you're confused more or less than before. There are no real rules or norms.

6. After sometime between 6 months and 40 years of this (or until such time as you quit your corporate marketing job and opt out of the COBRA coverage), you're deemed sane again and can resume life without a therapist.

Honestly, of all the nutjobs my therapist sees, I'm fairly certain that she regards me as one of the more sane -- and I'm not just saying that to provide further evidence toward my diagnosis as a full-on narcissist. I can tell because the sessions are mostly pleasant interactive discussions. I get the sense that her whole day isn't as pleasant. Last time in, for example, as I was leaving, I politely smiled and said I'd see her in a few weeks. As I exited, I heard her next patient in the waiting room angrily mutter, "Well, you're not going to get a smile from me today." I felt so sane hearing that. Does that make me a bad person?

Original Comments

Below, are the original comments on this post. Additional comments may be made via Facebook, below.

On March 18, 2009, Doc wrote:

No, that does not make you a bad person, and yes, I am a nutcase.

My theripist always spent a lot of time chewing his pencil and glancing at the clock. He was a nice guy and gave me some pills that seemed to help a great deal, but I always got the feeling like I was just boring the hell out of him.

Glad to hear you found something that works for you.

Doc

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